UI design is on the surface of every touch screen application we use, and it’s always the same end result. It doesn’t always look the same, but it’s always made using the same technologies, something like jQuery. I’m not saying that all of the interfaces on our apps are using jQuery, in fact, most of them are not. But we still accomplish the same effects just in different code.
Innovation is lost in the sense of making actual new technologies and ways of building. If software is used, if jQuery libraries are used, if you have to learn something in order to use it, the limitations are already there inside your app experience. The innovation is only skin deep or in this case, the depth of the screen. The difference in how I use the scripting languages I’ve learned and how you use them will be different but only in degree, not in kind. Because a difference in degree is only a change in the look or style, even the feel of it, though it all works the same. To really change how an interface functions even though it’s built with these pre-configured libraries, we should be looking at semantics as the backbone of UI design.
The challenge for developing now, for the future of UI and UX design is an understanding of semantics. Companies like Facebook and Twitter have collected massive amounts of data that describe how users interact with content on the screen. Just studying my own use of the iPhone, I can tell you that the interaction between me and that thing, is nothing but a tapping experience. Sure sometimes, I slide but 99.9% of the time, I just tap, and I tap where I’m told to by the position of the icon. It’s not so much about the content as it is just figuring out where to input operations. This small study into the use of my iPhone raises a few questions:
- Why are the buttons so small? Their position is the only thing directing me where to tap. Their space is wasted due to the fact that they are so small and require classical representations as directions.
- Why even make it a button? Couldn’t it just be a piece of the content that I tap on? There it is again, why am I tapping?
- These phones are smart. They like to be touched, so why do we spend the majority of the our time with our fingers hovered over them?
The question is now, what makes an interface actually pleasurable to use. What makes it fun to play with. Looking at semantics and UX design, how can I bring the user into the user experience. Instead of having them hover their finger over the phone, waiting the see where the next button appears to tap, I want to get them involved in really using this interface. Sliding, pausing, backgrounds in the form of dynamic ambiance, multiple finger input, and yes, flat, semi transparent UI. Because the UI should be so transparent that it is not possible to discern one button from another part of the screen. We have to transform these buttons into actions. Taking the physical appearance out and replacing it with psychological predictions of where and how to touch next.